New Zealand Law Society - Report analyses action on sexual violence victimisation reports

Report analyses action on sexual violence victimisation reports

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The Ministry of Justice has released a report which analyses 23,739 sexual violence victimisations reported to Police between July 2014 and June 2018.

Attrition and progression: Reported sexual violence victimisations in the criminal justice system finds that there was substantial attrition for victimisations reported to Police, with most occurring at the Police investigation stage. It says that by early 2019:

  • 31% of reported victimisations resulted in an alleged perpetrator being charged;
  • 11% resulted in a conviction;
  • 6% received a prison sentence.

"This means that if only 10% of sexual violence is reported to Police, for every 1200 victimisations only three result in a perpetrator being charged, and only one results in a conviction," it says.

The report says that overall, the investigation and court process took a long time for many victimisations. One-fifth (21%) of victimisations with a charge outcome received the outcome within six months of reporting. For half (51%) it took up to a year in total to receive a charge outcome and most (87%) had an outcome after a total of two years. For the remaining 13% of victimisations it took two years or more.

"The time taken for the court process appears to contribute substantially to the overall time taken for victimisations to progress from reporting to a charge outcome," it says.

There was a 21% increase in the number of sexual violence victimisations reported to Police between 2014/2015 and 2017/2018. The number of unique victims who reported victimisations each year also increased by 7%. However, it is not currently possible to determine how much of this is a result of an increase in sexual violence experienced, or increased reporting to, and recording by, Police.

"In the most recent year, 2017/2018, the proportion of reported victimisations resulting in court action increased to 34%, despite some investigations continuing. Over the four years there was a substantial decrease in victimisations deemed to not be a crime (from 17% to 2%). However, for a large proportion of reported victimisations the investigation did not result in action against a perpetrator.

"It is difficult to determine if the proportion of victimisations which result in a conviction or prison sentence has actually changed over time as nearly half (46%) of the victimisations from 2017/2018 that progressed to court were still active (awaiting a charge outcome), and a fifth (21%) of those already with a conviction were awaiting sentencing."

The Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Sexual and Domestic Violence Issues), Jan Logie, says the report does not make for happy reading, "but it is crucial that we have good data to measure our progress against".

"There is still a very long way to go," she says. "This Government is committed to making progress on these long-term challenges. We are improving court facilities, providing psycho-social support for complainants, the Solicitor-General has issued new prosecution guidelines, and later this year will introduce legislation to address long-standing issues with our sexual violence laws.”

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